Gracelino Tavares Barbosa finished talking on the phone with Cape Verde’s President Jorge Carlos Fonseca, who congratulated him on becoming the first athlete from the African country to win a Paralympic medal, and started taking photos with his fans.
The 31-year-old had just claimed bronze in the 400m T20 at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games and still could not believe his newly acquired fame.
“It is an amazing feeling to know you have just won your country’s first Paralympic medal in history,” said Tavares Barbosa, who ended behind Brazil’s Daniel Martins (47.22) and Venezuela’s Luis Arturo Paiva (47.83) with a time of 48.55.
“Every Para athlete dreams of competing against the world’s best at a huge event like the Paralympic Games. But winning a medal is just amazing and I still cannot believe it.
“Receiving a phone call from Cape Verde’s president himself was crazy, I thought they were playing a joke on me. This victory is for all my compatriots.”
Tavares Barbosa hopes his success can inspire other people in Cape Verde – and Africa, in general – to take up sports.
“With this medal comes a big responsibility, because now I have to teach others and explain to them that with hard work they can also one day win a medal,” he said.
“I am so happy and did not imagine I would win bronze in Rio. My goal was to reach the final.
“This is the consequence of my family’s, my friends’ and my daily sacrifice. I cannot describe how happy I feel.”
The Cape Verdean began training at 22 years old, when he decided to move to Portugal and devote himself exclusively to athletics.
“I did not have good conditions in my country and now I know it was a good decision to move abroad,” said Tavares Barbosa, who works as an electrician.
“Now that I am a Paralympic medallist, I plan to continue training but, above all, I want to raise awareness of Para sports in Cape Verde and Africa.”
Sport fans from around the world can now buy their Paralympic tickets for Rio 2016 from authorised ticket resellers (ATRs).
The IPC’s Global ATR is Jet Set Sports, and Rio 2016 tickets and packages can be purchased on the CoSport website.
Residents of Brazil can buy 2016 Paralympics tickets directly from the Rio 2016 website.
Visa International is the exclusive payment card and the official payment system for the Paralympic Games.